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Gandhi and Churchill: The Epic Rivalry that Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  900 Ratings  ·  128 Reviews
Authur Herman reveals how both Gandhi and Churchill's lives and careers became intertwined as the 20th century unfolded. Both men would go on to lead their nations through harrowing trials and two world wars and become locked in a fierce contest of wills that would decide the fate of countries, continents, and ultimately an empire.
Hardcover, 736 pages
Published April 29th 2008 by Bantam (first published January 1st 2008)
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Elliot Ratzman
Aug 12, 2011 rated it liked it
History written as the acts of “Great Men” makes for fun reading, but inaccurate historiography. While the author is presumably from this school, these two erstwhile great men—Gandhi and Churchill—seem often wretched, delusional, dogmatic and odious. Their lives were intertwined with the fate of both India and Britain, but it is unclear who the hero is and who’s the villain at any time—massive blood on their hands. Churchill is a prejudiced imperialist; Gandhi a deluded idealist. Churchill callo ...more
Agni Kirupha
Jul 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
It's a a decent book is what I can say. It gets a few things right but the problem is it leaves a lot of topics hanging in mid air. For example in one of the chapters, there was this sentence "Gandhi almost killed his son Harilal, with his experiments" or something along the same lines. It is a very offhand remark to make. Gandhi, in his autobiography, explains in detail this specific incident. He perceived the incident as a test of his morals/principles. (The doctors diagnose his son to be affe ...more
Mar 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is an epic book about two icons of history, esp. that of the 20th century. It links them in a way that I had not previously known as well as recounts their individual journeys compellingly and completely. Both emerge from the respectful treatment as more fully human - Gandhi revealed to be a leader whose followers often didn't and who had most of his protests turn out to be unsuccessful; Churchill revealed to have been bigoted, bullheaded and lucky (because he ascended to the Prime Minister ...more
Jun 19, 2009 rated it liked it
(written for another purpose)

I am no historian, or even a scholar who is well-versed in the material that this book concerns itself with. Therefore, this review is strictly a layman’s review.

Popular historian Arthur Herman in this book scripts parallel biographies of MK Gandhi and Winston Churchill, two titans of the last century, whose influence is indicated by their places as the runner-up to Person of the Century (1900 - 2000) and the Person of the Half Century (1900 – 1950) respectively by T
May 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: ram, dush
Gandhi and Churchill were among the most influential men of the 20th century, born within five years of each other 4000 miles apart. Though they met only once, their lives, values and goals would clash head-on several times. Arthur Herman writes a very readable book which includes not only the lives of these two Titans but incorporates also the history of the world during their lives – the two World Wars, the Depression and of course the fight for India’s independence.
The book clearly reveals wh
Dec 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, biography
Great exercise in demythologizing, especially of Gandhi

It has been said of French president Clemenceau that he had one illusion, France, and one disillusion, mankind, including Frenchmen.

Arthur Herman, in his magisterial new dual biography, shows how the same could be said of his twin protagonists over India and Indians.

Churchill's illusion was that Britain could continue to hold on to the old British Raj, even after World War II and a bankrupt British treasury. His disillusion was rather a cyni
"Gandhi and Churchill" by Arthur Herman is a fine dual biography of Mohandas Gandhi and Winston Churchill. This book is also an historical overview of the decline of the British Empire and the rise of Indian independence. While these two historical processes were inevitable and transcended any particular individual, it's fair to say that Gandhi and Churchill were the human "faces" of these two developments. And it's also fair to say that each man tried to impose, at times successfully and at oth ...more
Jul 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Just about any book about Churchill makes interesting reading. Gandhi I didn’t know much about – except for the adulatory movie. No, that’s not exactly true. Human Smoke, the odd pacifist history consisting of snippets from the period leading up to the American entry into WW II, has a lot of bits about Churchill (bloodthirsty warmonger) and Gandhi (man of peace and all round saint). I had just finished that book so I had a little bit of background.

This book casts the protagonists as similar in
Josh Steimle
Feb 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Connor Boyack
One might expect that a book this long would be fairly comprehensive. While observing that making the book any longer might have been impractical if the author wanted anyone to read it, my main fault with the book was that it could do no more in most cases than summarize the lives of these two giants of history. But I am now motivated to read more about and by the two men.

This was virtually my first exposure to either man, and my views on both certainly changed. While appearing to have done the
Oct 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is a 600 page mouthful of historical clashes and as the title suggests, the downfall of the British Raj. These were the 2 most inspiring leaders of our time but they opposed each other and differed greatly in their vision, especially control of India.

Subtle, understated facts about Churchill: the only British politcian of his time to immediately detect that Hitler was sinister, took a keen interest in racial science (he passed a bill for involuntary sterlization of the mentally ill - he did
Jim Good
Dec 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Duel biography of Churchill and Gandhi putting special emphisis on the fight for Indian independence. Shows Churchill’s strength and weakness to be the same: steadfast resolve and issues as black and white only. Compares to Gandhi’s eccentricities and self examination. In the conflict each misjudged the other, missed opportunities to find solutions that could have prevented disaster, and became icons in their country without accomplishing their true goals. Churchill’s goal of reaffirming and pro ...more
May 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
i loved this book, very revealing portrait of political turmoil throught the first half of the 20th century,
and also great notes on the two individuals who along with Hitler, Stalin and Roosevelt, helped shape our world during that time..
many surprising notes about G and C and their personalities and beliefs, from reliable sources...
Herman's portrayal of WC is really not that flattering, but I think realistic, the man had his faults, like us all, but was able to rise,
and be remembered as 'great
Mar 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, biography, 2016
Cometh the hour, cometh the men...

Two of the most iconic figures of the 20th century, Gandhi and Churchill met only once, but spent much of their lives locked in a battle over the future of India, a battle that would have repercussions far beyond the borders of that nation and long after both men had quit the political stage.

The scope of this book is huge. Herman gives us parallel biographies of both men from birth to death, a full political history of India under the Raj, and a wider look at t
Raja Krishnan
Apr 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing

Below is the review I wrote after reading this book.

For those of you intimidating by reading History, I would encourage you to give it a chance. Yeah, history books are long, hundreds of pages; it at first appears that it can be dry. This is not the case when well written, and when reading History patience does have its rewards. Oh, now there might be a lot of names, places, dates and it might be tough to follow. Again if well written and presented, then it should be easy to follow, stay with it
Feb 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2007-2009
This is a fascinating (albeit lengthy, dense, and complex; an index of names to keep all the important players straight would've been greatly appreciated) history of two of the most famous people of the early Twentieth Century: Winston Churchill and Mohandas Gandhi, two hugely influential individuals, born thousands of miles apart, who only met once when both were powerless and unimportant but whose feud later in life over the future of India and the British Empire lasted decades and did almost ...more
Jan 24, 2015 rated it liked it
Fox news style distasteful interpretation of Indian history, January 25, 2015
By amazonuser - See all my reviews
This review is from: Gandhi & Churchill: The Epic Rivalry that Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age (Paperback)
True in spirit to his conservative leanings, Arthur Herman makes fox news style arguments to push his rather forced comparisons between the two great men of history where little comparisons existed. Throughout the book, he seems to have an agenda to "Lionize" Churchill an
Aug 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
An extremely well-researched and thorough book, which means I skim at parts and try to garner what I understand and might even remember. Gandhi's original protests in South Africa were about Indians being compared to blacks; when England abolished slavery they rather appointed the same terms and situations to Indians, especially those with darker skin/lowest caste. There was a terrible slaughter of Brits in 1850's when Indians rose up against them and that tarnished perspectives for quite some t ...more
Rishi Garg
Jan 21, 2015 rated it liked it
This work was impressive in that Herman identified certain relationships between the ideologies of Churchill and Gandhi that help define their eras and characters. For example, Herman notes that Churchill was an absolute capitalist, equating capitalism with freedom, whereas Gandhi rejected technology for agrarian self-sufficiency. Herman then takes a profound step arguing that Churchill's main goal was to preserve the traditional British Empire, whose existence was economically dependent on keep ...more
Oct 29, 2008 rated it liked it
This was a skillfully written biography about two very interesting people who substantially shaped the politics of the 20th century.

The biggest message that I learned from this book is that their contributions were not necessarily positive, either one of them. People are fallible; great people are greatly fallible. Gandhi's campaigns, with the exception of perhaps the Salt Satyagraha, were almost exclusively failures (or at least, minor, ho-hum successes). This portion of the book could be consi
Ankit Mahato
Oct 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
`Frankly, if you had to choose the greater man between Gandhi and Churchill, there's no contest.'

Two men, born five years and four thousand miles apart, meet once when both are unknown. Then they go their separate ways and become two of the most revered figures of the 20th century. From time to time they pass each other as they pass through history, each bent on his own course. otherwise they find very different destinies. One saves his country and secures victory in the greatest war th
Mar 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
I liked this book. I gave me a better impression of what they were like and why. It also opened my eyes to the faults and foibles that we all have.

What I learned from this book is how popular opinion can shape people's opinions of historical figures. We often get the filtered view and we really have to dig in a bit more and form our own opinions. Granted you are still reading an opinion, but there are facts and quotes that can't be denied.

I always thought Gandhi might be a good model for startin
Jan 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Two icons of twentieth century history who significantly shaped the course of world events are examined in tandem in this book. They were controversial figures, both venerated and despised, but history has ultimately placed them in the rubric of giants. That they accomplished much is indisputable, but they were far from perfect, as this book so well chronicles. They often failed, but their relentless ambitions and relative longevity allowed them ample opportunity to try, try again. Both possesse ...more
Feb 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Excellent modern history, an authoritative but very readable 600 page study of two giants of the early 20th century – “the two came to differ on many if not most issues, but the man who would single-handedly defy Hitler in 1940 bears a striking resemblance to the man who organised the first satyagraha campaign in South Africa.”
Gandhi and Churchill were contemporaries. “Both men loved freedom and liberty but of two fundamentally different kinds.” They came to be the fiercest opponents over India
Greg Tatum
Apr 18, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, audiobooks, 2011
It's quite interesting how different contemporary historical figures have lives that are very similar in their arcs, and provide a unique way to compare and contrast two different cultures; the way the thematic elements in their lives came together, and the way that they diverged apart. Churchill and Gandhi were very different people, and yet they were at the forefront of two nations that had a very tightly integrated and yet disparate relationship.

Arthur Herman writes a largely engaging account
Matt Robinson
Nov 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
I think I'm a tad biased against long biographies - and this one felt really long. The men described are fascinating figures, and I got lots of glimpses of Gandhi I never would have expected. But mostly I felt like I was reading a chronology without a lot of character. Tying Churchill and Gandhi's stories together was an interesting take and a way to provide context between each others' lives, but I think I would have preferred reading shorter, more biased accounts of their lives separately.

Dec 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, south-asia, own, wwi, 2015
This book is primarily a biography of Gandhi and Churchill. What Herman tried and failed in my opinion was to create a life long invisible link between the two men. Concluding each chapter with phrases similar to ‘little did Gandhi know that far away in England….” was futile. But irrespective of this, the book was informative and brought to light many details of the lives of both men which were hitherto unknown to me. Churchill’s travels in India, his participation in the wars of the NWFP, his p ...more
Aug 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What an utterly outstanding (if incredibly massive) book.

Everything you ever wanted to know... and probably more than you thought existed... about Mohandas Gandhi's life and development as an activist and player in the Indian independence journey. What amazed me most is how wildly different that man was than the "little peaceful fasting naked" man we imagine in the West.

And while I'm sure there are a nearly infinite number of volumes written on Winston Churchilll, this particular one focuses on
Dec 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This fascinating dual-biography on Gandhi & Churchill is an unique side by side examination of two towering but complicated characters. Looking at their world through two contrasting and often forgotten viewpoints, the audience is treated to a story of the final decades of the British Empire, the Indian independence movement, and an epic rivalry that reshaped the world. The gritty details of both men will fascinate the reader and at times shock our modern sensibilities. Despite being dubbed ...more
Bob Schmitz
Feb 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you want to know everything about Gandhi and Churchill this is a great book. Using the theme of their conflict over India the author takes each man and traces their history from grandparents to death. It gives a very nuanced picture of both men’s strengths and weakness, their well know success and their lesser know failures. I was aware of many of Churchill’s failures and faults: Gallipoli, the partition of the Mideast, huge egotism but the book portrays all sides of these issues and the fail ...more
Roger Taylor
Oct 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An interesting in depth study of the clash between the British ( Churchill ) and Gandhi and other Indian leaders over the fate of the jewel of the British Empire. The author brings to light weaknesses in both leaders that may not have been evident before. Churchill is seen as a man blinded at times by his obsession over the importance of hanging on to India long after most Indians and many in England realized that India must be given its freedom. Gandhi is seen as his country's most inspirationa ...more
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Arthur L. Herman (born 1956) is an American popular historian, currently serving as a senior fellow at Hudson Institute. He generally employs the Great Man perspective in his work, which is 19th Century historical methodology attributing human events and their outcomes to the singular efforts of great men that has been refined and qualified by such modern thinkers as Sidney Hook.
More about Arthur Herman...

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“The two came to differ on many, if not most, issues. But the man who would single-handedly defy Hitler in 1940 against all odds bears a striking resemblance to the man who organized the first satyagraha campaign in South Africa.” 2 likes
“Then one day he returned from school to learn he was going to be married. He was thirteen—certainly not too young for the prearranged marital match that was considered essential to a Hindu household. His bride Kasturbai Makanji, also thirteen, was the daughter of a merchant who lived only a few doors down from the Gandhis’ old house in Porbandar.” 0 likes
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